Saturday, 30 November 2013

Non-Member Advertising — Change of Payment Procedure

Part of DepList's appeal for non-member advertisers is being able to post an emergency advertisement at very short notice. Invoicing and payment can be dealt with later. The most important thing is to find a dep quickly with minimum fuss. Until today, advertisers would fill in a form detailing their requirements, I would then forward it to members, and the job vacancy would be filled within minutes. At some point I would send the advertisers an invoice, and when the payments came in I would enter them in my "income ledger". This morning I looked through my database to check for outstanding invoices. I don't do this exercise very often and I got a shock. I expected more honesty from those in our line of business.

Regrettably, the payment part of the deal has, in far too many cases, not been honoured by advertisers.  My database is full of unpaid invoices! Perhaps advertisers think that for the sake of two quid, it's not worth all the hassle of payment. But I could easily say the same thing! Let us suppose I charge my time at £15/hour. To check for missing payments, confirm the omission in my bank records, double-check that I haven't made a filing or record-keeping error and then send a payment reminder takes time, and 10 minutes of such admin work soon pass by. Ten minutes of my time works out as £2.50, so there's little incentive to chase up the invoiced amount of £2, which, once PayPal's commission and HMRC's tax have been deducted leave me with about £1.39 to put in my pocket. If fee collection is such a hassle, why not just automate the whole thing and let the adverts go out free? Because then I'd have to raise the subscription fees beyond what most members would be prepared to pay. The whole idea behind external advertising is to generate more work for members and to help pay for the maintenance of this site. There's a huge amount of work involved in running this service, as well as financial outlays for software, domain name and server space, and it's disappointing that some people want to enjoy its benefits without being prepared to pay even a token amount for the privilege. There is only so much that I am willing to subsidise.

So from today I shall be accepting only pre-paid advertisements (with the exception of our free trial ad for first-time users). This will be less convenient for advertisers, and no doubt the number of adverts passing through will go down, but it can't be helped.  The solution for advertisers who want convenience is to join as Associate Members.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

That Time of Year Again

New term, new beginnings. This time of the year always brings an influx of new applicants to join DepList, a good number of them premature. It is worth reminding potential applicants and sponsors that DepList's function is emphatically not to help people obtain work. That may happen to be an end-result or a byproduct of DepList, but it's not what it was designed or invented for. "So what's DepList for, then?" you ask. Answer: To help people book musicians. Competent ones, reliable ones and, above all, experienced ones. We already have plenty of members. Our numbers fluctuate, but we never have fewer than 250 in active membership. We don't need any more.

If you apply straight from college, we'll probably turn you down. Simple as that. Please, please wait until you can truly say that you have sung/played in a wide variety of venues and that you have acquired a lot of experience in your particular area of expertise. I would discourage anyone from applying until they are 23 or 24 years of age.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Post Script

Yesterday, fully ten days after our Memberkit software suffered a seemingly terminal malfunction, which brought down the whole of our Members' Area, it sprang to life again, as suddenly as it had died. Too late! Ten days' downtime is not acceptable for a busy website like this, and now that I have rebuilt the site with WordPress I shall be sticking with the new version. I have removed the Memberkit software from our server. It was an expensive experiment, which was the only solution three years ago, at a time when WordPress couldn't do what we wanted (or if it could, it was beyond my programming skills). Now, though, WordPress does what we want and more, a lot better and with much more ease than Memberkit, so there is no reason to go back. It is reassuring to know, though, that the problem did not stem from anything we did. I suspect that if and when WordPress chooses to go down, it will not take 10 days for its engineers to fix it.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Members' Area — Final Stage Complete

I should have added that our new Members' Area is now officially open.

New Announcements Page

From now on, all news and information of an administrative nature — i.e. anything that's of interest only to our Members — will be posted in the Members' Area of the website. This news page will be reserved for more general news.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Members' Area — First Stage Complete

Much of the Members' Area is now rebuilt. WordPress is delightfully easy to use, and the Directory plug-in works beautifully. Much easier than the previous software, and only one bug so far. I reported the bug on the support forum, and got an almost instant reply that the developers were already working on fixing the problem! Members are invited to create entries for the Directory as from now. You will find the new Members' Area here.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Transferring the Members' Area to WordPress

Our Members' Area is still down (see yesterday's post). This does not look good. Server problems don't usually last this long. We can't afford this sort of unprovoked malfunction. Our membership software (Memberkit) was always buggy and unfortunately the developers have long since lost interest and stopped developing it, or providing updates and support (let alone ironing out the bugs). I can only assume that one of our members did something while creating or updating their profile that coincided precisely with a server glitch or outage, which caused the system to crash and burn. It may even have been one of the many bugs that overwhelmed the whole system. I just don't know and I can't do anything to fix it. At the time of purchase, just over three years ago, the Memberkit software seemed ideal (if expensive). But the trouble was that there were not enough users. There was a rather sketchy and out-of-date User Guide, but apart from that, once the 90-day support ran out, I was on my own. The users' forum had too few participants to be of help, and one's questions remained unanswered and problems unresolved. The time has come to migrate to WordPress, with its much larger market share. According to Wikipedia at the time of writing, WordPress is used on 60 million web sites. I have already installed it on our server. And there are loads of tutorials and manuals out there to help me get started, and plug-ins for every conceivable application. Reconstruction work will start as soon as I can find time to build what we need. Our new Members' Area will undoubtedly have a quite different look and feel. Perhaps it will have even more functionality than what we had before. But there is every chance that it will be more reliable. Of course, this only affects members' listings on the website (headshots and biographies etc). Nothing else about DepList is affected, and messaging and advertising continue to function as normal.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Members' Area is Down

The Members' Area part of our website is not functioning. I don't know why. I hope it's just a temporary server problem which will sort itself out. It's certainly not the result of anything I've done, as I've made no changes to the website recently, and it was functioning perfectly well earlier this week. The Members' Area is quite separate from the rest of the website. It is interactive and therefore depends on a database. Our server is nominally in the USA, but of course it could be anywhere. The database for the Members' Area may be hosted on an entirely different server. I'm hoping the glitch is a temporary communication problem between the main server that hosts our static files and the database server that enables the dynamic Members' Area files to function.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Busy Night for DepList

My colleague Mhairi tells me that DepList managed to fill about 36 positions for Midnight Mass and Christmas morning services. That's just from adverts that passed through us, and is certainly an all-time record. It doesn't include the tens or even hundreds of positions that members were probably already booked for without there being any need to advertise them. I doubt there was anyone left on DepList who wasn't singing or playing somewhere in or around London on 24th and 25th December.